Leonardo Da Vinci Tarot Cards

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Pack information: 78 cards with booklet
Card dimensions: 70 x 120 mm
Author: Atanas Atannassov & Iassen Ghiuselev 

They say: The creation of a new Tarot deck is always a challenge. The artists who put themselves to this test know this all too well, having had to maintain coherency of style, line, and color for 78 images. But before creating the images, a project, which is simultaneously traditional as well as innovative, is necessary because the Arcana must always be recognizable. The problem becomes greater when an artist of the calibre of Leonardo da Vinci is used as a point of reference; one risks falling into plagiarism or banalization. But the Leonardo Tarot has overcome the challenge. The Major Arcana, created in 1992 by lassen Ghiuselev following my iconographic indications, may be inserted among the 'Leonardesque' masterpieces. In fact, as the well-known art historian Marco Bussagli wrote, 'the Bulgarian painter has completely succeeded in restoring the charm of Leonardesque chiaroscuro using an impeccable technique'.

Today, ten years later, the deck is offered in a complete version thanks to another Bulgarian artist, Atanas Atanassov, who took steps to create the 56 Minor Arcana. When observing this new series, one remains spellbound by the seriousness with which the Eastern European schools prepare new generations of artists, making them capable of reinterpreting the Art (let's emphasize the uppercase A) with the 'lightness' of those who have perfectly acquired both the aesthetic precepts as well as the most refined techniques. This is why it seems to me that the entire deck should be attributed the judgment expressed in turn by Bussagli: 'The Leonardo Tarot is worthy of admiration. It is not simply an academic exercise but something more, almost as if the works by the genius Vinci are able to reveal here their most intimate nature, that of the Arcana of the intellect and the spirit'.

Guest Review by Brian Stevenson

The authors of this pack point out that in 1482 Leonardo da Vinci visited the court of Ludovico Sforza and they speculate that da Vinci may well have seen people at court using one of the earliest known packs of Tarot cards; The Visconti-Sforza. This pack is a wonderful tribute to both Tarot and to the art of Leonardo da Vinci. All the images are painted in a pale sepia, with some muted greens and blues. The overall effect is that of delicately hand-tinted prints or etchings. All the people depicted are based on figures shown in da Vinci's drawings and paintings. Some of these images, such as the Mona Lisa, are very well-known. The cards blend together these well-known images with various pieces of medieval symbolism. Almost all of these blends work well, except perhaps for The High Priestess, where the Mona Lisa is shown wearing a large Bishop's mitre. This surreal mix reminds me of the cartoons that used to feature in Monty Python's Flying Circus! However, with that one exception, all the cards successfully illuminate the meanings of both the Major and Minor Arcana.

The cards are full of tiny details and the authors obviously spent a lot of time working these out. For example, all the Major Arcana feature some writing in their backgrounds. This writing is unreadable until you realise that it is back-to-front and that you have to read the words by looking at them in a mirror. A mirror also features in Justice, where the figure of Justice is seen holding a small hand mirror up at an angle. Closer inspection shows that the face of Leonardo himself appears in the mirror. All the Minor Arcana are fully illustrated, although the meanings may not be immediately apparent to readers who are used to Rider-Waite type decks. This pack is not really suitable for absolute beginners. However, I can heartedly recommend it to anyone interested in da Vinci's art or to anyone who wants an authentically influenced medieval Tarot.

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